ABOUT THE BOOK: • Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: HarperOne (July 5, 2016)
Many Christians in this country hear a singular ethic from their faith communities – absolute abstinence outside of marriage, and no exceptions regarding abortion, birth control, and being gay. As a result of this inflexible approach, many simply disengage, disconnecting their sex lives from their lives of faith.
In Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't the Only Option – And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex, Pastor Bromleigh McCleneghan grapples with the enduring conflict of Christianity and sex. She combines personal anecdotes with theological research, and uses a measured, non-judgmental, and sometimes humorous tone to make her case. She lays out theological and ethical questions that arise in the average, everyday experience of adult sexuality, and informs readers through these discussions in a clear and engaging way. In this much needed book, she:
- Addresses the theological sense of pleasure.
- Encourages people to think about virginity and sexual initiation as complex things.
- Discusses modesty, nudity, and what it means to be vulnerable with other people.
- Reflects on whether or not single Christians have to be celibate.
- Considers how to recognize whether it’s time to end a relationship, or make a go of it.
The author makes the comment in the introduction, “I rarely learned about sex or romantic love in the context of church. Agape, yes. But eros? Not on your life.” I think this sums it up quite nicely. In my experience, sex in the church is taught as something to avoid, something that is wrong, if it is even mentioned at all. Usually it is mentioned with the tone of “decent people don’t speak of such things” and the subject is put to rest as soon as possible. Thus, young men and women are left with a feeling of shame over their normal sexual desires. They are left with nobody to talk to about their relationships, and they don’t know how to fully enjoy and explore a sexual relationship. Therefore, I eagerly picked up this book to see what it had to say on the subject.
The author gives the impression right away what her stance is, and is not afraid to discuss topics such as sex before marriage, masturbation, and other topics.
On the subject of masturbation, for example, the author took an anonymous facebook poll and received such opinions ranging from “it’s a sin against my chastity” to “it’s a pleasurable gift from God.” She concludes the chapter with a statement that it isn’t necessarily good or bad, but is human nature, and can’t be labeled strictly good or bad because there’s so much more to it than that. The context, the reason you do it, what your motives are – all need to be taken into consideration when deciding if something like masturbation is good or bad.
On one hand, I did sorta expect the conclusion to be left open to interpretation. This is what most books do. The author lays out an argument that explains both sides, then leaves the conclusion up to the reader. Okay. This at times can be frustrating to a reader who is wanting more definite answers than that. However, I’m a therapist and I know very well how difficult a yes or a no can be. It does depend more on the motive behind an action whether it is something that is being handled appropriately or being misused. Each person must determine this for themselves. I also know that when a person is wanting to justify their actions, they are only going to look for information that supports them being “right” and will overlook anything that requires them to consider that what they’re doing might be harmful to themselves or others.
Overall, I think the author does a marvelous job of exploring the reasons behind a person’s decision to be in a relationship or engage in an act and bases her conclusions of what is right or wrong on the motivations behind the actions. Are you in a relationship for the right reasons? Are you being fair to this person? What are your motivations and intentions, and are they clear to the other person? Are you using sex as a manipulation tool, or letting yourself be manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do? Clear boundaries, openness and honesty with yourself and your partner are key. This may not be the cut and dry yes or no that people want to know when it comes to their questions, but is the right answer, in my opinion as a Christian and a therapist.
I was also pleased to see the subject of infidelity discussed, and not strictly based on whether you have physical relations with another person, but emotional infidelity as well, which I think is a much-overlooked topic. I wholeheartedly enjoy this book and would recommend it.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review. I was not required to post a positive review, and all opinions are my own.